Skaneateles Each of the last two seasons, the Skaneateles girls ice hockey team's season came to a dramatic, painful end in back-to-back double-overtime defeats to Alexandria Bay in the Section III championship game.
But in the 2014 version of the sectional final Tuesday night at Austin Park Pavilion, there was no pain, and very little drama, as the Lakers finally got to the top by shutting out the Oswego Buccaneers 3-0.
"It's the greatest relief," said senior goaltender Amanda Lupo, who was part of both of those title-game losses, but got a shutout this time around, recording 14 saves.
For senior captain Claire Michel, whose short-handed goal in the second period proved a turning point, the victory meant something else.
"It proves that all our hard work has paid off," said Michel. "It's a nice feeling."
All through this winter, as it dominated Section III foes, the Lakers took none of its success for granted and remained hungry for the big prize. Getting it meant beating an Oswego side that it topped 4-1 in both of their regular-season meetings in January.
What helped Skaneateles, besides home-ice advantage, was the fact that the Bucs had to play the night before in the sectional semifinals, edging past Alex Bay 4-3. By contrast, the Lakers' semifinal (a 5-1 win over Ithaca) had taken place six days earlier, which meant it took the ice rested, energized and ready to atone for the disappointments of the last two years.
A large, enthusiastic crowd braved the cold and saw Lupo make a big stop less than a minute into the game. After that, the Lakers gradually assumed control of the puck, taking eight shots to Oswego's three, and patiently waiting for a chance to move in front.
It came late in the period, thanks to a Bucs penalty. Though Maddie Whalen made three saves on the enusing power play, she couldn't keep Riley Donahue from taking Sophie Kush's pass and drilling a shot from the right point into the net at the 11:05 mark.